March 23, 2017
Brock Lesnar has been personally served in the Mark Hunt lawsuit according to court papers filed today. The UFC heavyweight filed the lawsuit in January in Nevada.
Earlier this week, Hunt’s attorneys filed its opposition brief in the UFC and Dana White’s Motion to Dismiss. Lesnar had not yet been served according to a footnote in the brief. The attorneys for Hunt had been working to serve Lesnar but had been unsuccessful.
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 23, 2017
Since Lesnar is a Canadian citizen and he was unwilling to accept service voluntarily, Hunt had to serve him pursuant to the protocol of the Hague convention. While this might sound daunting, it shouldn’t be.
One would have to think that Lesnar join the Motion to Dismiss brought by the UFC and White. Although this Lesnar’s claims differ from the UFC and White, expect the current WWE star’s attorney to proclaim the lawsuit as without merit. MMA Payout will have more on this in the coming weeks.
March 22, 2017
A footnote to the opposition brief notes that Brock Lesnar has not accepted service of the lawsuit since he resides in Saskatchewan, Canada and will not accept service.
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 23, 2017
Taking issue with the UFC’s characterization that Hunt’s lawsuit is speculative at best, Hunt’s attorneys state that the New Zealand heavyweight has actual damages despite the fact that this is not the standard for dismissal in a Motion to Dismiss. Hunt’s attorneys aregue that the UFC and Dana White are seeking Hunt to prove his claims at this stage of the lawsuit but the standard for a Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment differ.
Among the issues of note in the lengthy response, Hunt’s attorneys note that he is the owner of a clothing brand, Juggernaut, and his loss impacts his brand. The opposition brief plainly states that losing is bad for business as despite the UFC’s assertions that Hunt’s damages are merely speculative, Hunt’s claims are real.
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 23, 2017
As another example, Hunt claims that his contract with the UFC has a clause which grants a step up in pay from $850,000 to $1,000,000 in title fights. Although his contract is lodged as an exhibit to his Complaint, that part of the lawsuit is sealed from the public’s view.
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 23, 2017
In its conclusion, Hunt’s attorneys request that if a the Court finds in favor of the UFC and White that it have a right to amend its Complaint which may be done pursuant to the court rules.
The hearing is set for May 15, 2017.
The opposition goes on to debunk the arguments made by the UFC in its brief. Reading the section on Hunt’s contract claims, its hard to decipher whether that clause in his contract is based on title fights in which he is a challenger or if he becomes a champion. Due to its vagueness, it might be the latter. As for his claim that his brand would be diminished, this may be true. It also might not be true. However, as Hunt’s attorneys point out the allegation is concrete enough to survive a Motion to Dismiss. After discovery, and a Motion for Summary Judgment, that might not be the case. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
March 21, 2017
Al Haymon’s attorneys filed its Bill of Costs with the court in the antitrust lawsuit brought by Golden Boy Boxing. As the prevailing party at the trial court level, its entitled to its costs which is slightly under $35,000 but they may not see this amount.
Golden Boy filed a Notice of Appeal to the Federal Circuit Court as the trial court dismissed its lawsuit against Al Haymon in February. Under Federal Rule 54(d)(1), legal costs (not attorney legal fees) should be allowed to a prevailing party. The costs include almost $30,000 in deposition costs for the lawsuit which lasted a year and a half.
In addition to the legal costs it incurred during the lawsuit, Golden Boy might be hit with $35,000 it will need to pay Haymon. Of course, even if there was not an appeal, Golden Boy probably would have disputed this amount. Since it is going to be appealed, Haymon might have the right to recoup this fee plus attorney fees if it wins on appeal. If the trial court decision is overturned, it will likely see none of this amount.
March 18, 2017
A Los Angeles Federal Magistrate Judge has transferred Bellator’s Motion to Quash Zuffa’s Subpoenas to the Nevada court hearing the antitrust lawsuit. The decision to transfer venue was made on Friday March 17th and done without oral argument.
Citing “exceptional circumstances” pursuant to the federal rules governing subpoenas, it determined that the “interests in favor of transfer outweigh the interests of Bellator in obtaining local resolution of the subpoena-related motions.”
Bellator, a non-party in the antitrust lawsuit, sought relief from a UFC subpoena requesting certain documents including information related to specific fighter contracts including information related to negotiations, terminations, cancellations and transfer of contracts. Bellator has provided the UFC with documents but reached an impasse on certain information.
The federal magistrate, which ordered the transfer, pointed to the looming May 1, 2017 fact discovery deadline, the Nevada court issued the protective order and the Nevada magistrate had been active in previous discovery as reasons for the transfer.
Moreover, the court determined that Bellator would not be inconvenienced by having to appear in Nevada citing the possibility of appearing telephonically. Alternatively, the proximity between California and Nevada would make the travel negligible.
If you were to ask me, it appears that California did not want anything to do with the Motion. Rather, it kicked it back to Nevada to deal with the details of the Motion and the lawsuit. In most instances, Bellator did the appropriate thing in filing for relief where their business is primarily located but the court found reasons to negate the inconvenience. For the UFC, it’s a win as the issue will go before the magistrate that has been dealing with the UFC and plaintiffs since the case was transferred from a Norther California federal court back in June 2015.
MMA Payout will have more on this. Stay tuned.
March 14, 2017
Attorneys for World of Boxing and Alexander Povetkin have filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law and/or a new trial this past Friday. The hearing is scheduled for April 21, 2017 before the trial court judge in New York.
A jury determined that Povetkin took the banned substance Meldonium after January 1, 2016. It was the sole issue determined at trial.
World of Boxing and Povetkin attorneys intimated that they would be moving for either an appeal or this relief stating issues with the decision and conduct of Wilder’s attorneys.
Under Federal Civil Rule of Procedure 50, Judgment as a Matter of Law is a motion that can be made during trial or after. Essentially, it requests the judge take the decision out of the hands of the jury citing that the other party has not proven its case, and as a matter of law, should rule in favor of the moving party.
Under Federal Civil Rule of Procedure 59, a Motion for New Trial, may be requested any time within 28 days after the jury verdict. It may be granted if there was a serious erroneous result or a miscarriage of justice.
The motion is long and outside the bounds of the page length for a motion and the attorneys have asked attorneys to file extra pages. The attorneys for World of Boxing and Povetkin claim that the jury verdict was not based on the evidence, the testimony of one of Wilder’s experts should not have been relied upon, the timing of the trial did not allow for all the questions to be answered and the purported misconduct of Wilder’s attorney.
The motion goes before the trial court judge which makes it somewhat hard for the moving party because they are arguing that the judge did not oversee their trial properly and thus must do it again. These motions would be quicker than an appeal although it would seem that they are exhausting all options. MMA Payout will return later with a substantive look at the claims.
March 11, 2017
As Vitor Belfort heads into the Octagon to face Kelvin Gastelum on Saturday, we take a look at one of the issues brought up in Mark Hunt’s lawsuit: the UFC had information regarding Belfort’s testosterone levels prior to UFC 152.
As we know, Hunt filed a lawsuit against the UFC, Dana White and Brock Lesnar with a variety of legal claims. Among them was a claim for violation under the civil RICO statute which carries with it treble damages (3x actual damages) if proven at trial.
In his Complaint, Hunt points out that at UFC 152, Zuffa allegedly “willfully concealed” Belfort’s TRT use exemption and that Zuffa allowed him to fight at UFC 152 despite prior knowledge that he had elevated testosterone levels.
In its Motion to Dismiss Mark Hunt’s Complaint, Zuffa addressed the issue of Vitor Belfort’s retroactive TUE use ahead of his fight against Jon Jones in 2012.
The revelation of Belfort’s high testosterone levels was due in part to an inadvertent e-mail blast from a UFC paralegal.
Under federal RICO claims, the e-mail communications constitute acts of wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. sec 1343. The wire component is an inextricable part of the civil RICO claim.
In addition to the use of emails, Hunt’s attorneys argue that Lesnar’s ESPN appearance with Hannah Storm on June 6, 2016 and also promotions via the internet and television promoting UFC 200 satisfy the wire fraud component of 18 U.S.C. 1343.
Hunt claims that when the UFC allowed Belfort to fight it was in violation of state and federal laws. Similarly, he claims that his UFC 200 bout with Brock Lesnar was in violation of state and federal laws when it allowed Lesnar to compete against Hunt when it “caused or willfully permitted a doping fighter to compete against HUNT.” They also cite to Hunt’s fights with Antonio Silva and Frank Mir when both failed post-fight drug tests for banned substances.
According to Hunt’s lawsuit, the conduct represented a “pattern of liberally granting purported use exemptions and other drug testing exemptions, without any additional safeguards to prevent abuse.”
In the UFC’s response to the Belfort claims, it argues that the email has nothing to do with Hunt’s current claim for damages. Since Hunt was not one of the unintended recipients to the emails, nor did he see it at the time or rely on the emails. The UFC argues that the communications stemming from Belfort in September 2012 at UFC 152 has nothing to do with Hunt citing he had “zero involvement.” Thus, it argues that there is no proximate cause to Hunt’s claimed injuries. Moreover, the UFC argues that the ESPN interview and similar communications were not intended for Hunt, nor did he rely on them to his detriment. Essentially, UFC frames the communications as “random” and did not “directly cause” Hunt’s alleged personal injuries or lost opportunities.
Hunt argues that the Belfort incident is a part of the pattern of conduct which jeopardize fighter health and safety for the UFC’s profit and shall satisfy the claims under RICO.
Hunt’s attorney citing and re-telling of the Belfort test and the UFC erroneous email is likely a jab at the company to embarrass and color its reputation. It does create the backdrop for which Hunt brings his lawsuit. It’s undeniable that Hunt’s last 3 fights have taken PEDs. It is also clear that Hunt had nothing to do with the Belfort issue at UFC 152. But, it is not certain whether the incident involving Belfort will be taken as a part of a pattern of conduct by the Court.
Here, the UFC is seeking to dislodge Hunt’s grasp of his RICO claim on the procedural component that Hunt is not directly engaged in these communications, a requisite for his RICO claim. Thus, the underlying legalities of Belfort’s exemption does not matter, nor does the UFC want to have to explain the situation.
From Hunt’s perspective, they will likely argue that the Belfort situation creates a pattern of conduct that allows fighters using PEDs to fight clean fighters. This does seem like a hard argument to make but we will see how Hunt’s legal team responds.
March 9, 2017
Zuffa has filed its opposition to Bellator’s Motion to Quash Subpoenas issued by the company in its lawsuit filed by former fighters. Zuffa argues it is in need of three requests it made to Bellator and made exhaustive attempts (over 18 months) to work with the company on narrowing the scope.
Zuffa claims it does not normally seek non-public information from a competitor but they must have access “to defend against the antitrust lawsuit…”
A Federal Magistrate will hear the arguments from both sides on March 29th in Los Angeles.
The three requests at issue are:
- Bellator’s unredacted contracts;
- Documents regarding its negotiations with athletes; and
- Limited financial information including profit/loss statements and financial projections.
Zuffa claims that the request for contract documents will show the “intense competition” within Plaintiffs’ “Elite Professional MMA Fighter services” market. Documents regarding negotiations with athletes will also demonstrate that the UFC is not the “only game in town” and there is competition for fighters. It will also show that Bellator offers its athletes competitive compensation. Additionally, argues that Bellator’s Financial Information will reveal that it has not been foreclosed from the alleged market set by Plaintiffs.
It also argues that the requests are proportional to the needs of case. Essentially, Zuffa is asking only what it needs from Bellator and rebuts the Viacom-owned company’s assertion in its Motion to Quash that the requests are not proportional. In its brief, Zuffa cites the importance of the documents indicating “…issues at stake in the Nevada Action have the potential to fundamentally reshape the entire MMA industry.”
Zuffa attorneys argue that confidential information would not be made public or even disclosed to Zuffa. The protective order currently in place allows Bellator to designate its information with the title HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – ATTORNEYS” EYES ONLY. This would ensure that the public or Zuffa employees would never see the information. This discovery designation is sometimes utilized in highly sensitive cases with company documents. In addition, Zuffa cites case law (notably, no cases in the 9th circuit, the controlling authority for this court) citing that motions to quash are “routinely denied” when there are “adequate protections for the commercially sensitive information.”
It also argues that in the antitrust lawsuit in Nevada, Zuffa has produced over 651,000 documents with 241,00 identified as Highly Confidential. The Plaintiffs, according to Zuffa, have produced approximately 64,000 docs with 4,300 docs identified as highly confidential. Third parties have produced 241,000 docs with 2,800 being designated as highly confidential. Zuffa makes the point that none of the highly confidential documents were disseminated to anyone other than attorneys and experts in the lawsuit. Thus, Zuffa and/or the Plaintiffs have not seen any of the documents flagged highly confidential.
The opposition briefing includes two declarations. One from one of Zuffa’s attorneys highlighting the account of how it attempted to work with Bellator on accessing the documents under the subpoena requests. Another declaration is from a Zuffa-retained expert citing the need for the documents requested to address the issues in the antitrust lawsuit.
You can expect the Federal Magistrate that will hear this motion to weigh the benefits of producing the documents against the business trade secrets of Bellator. If you are Bellator, you are fighting this to the end because there is always a chance that someone (knowingly or unknowingly) violates the terms of a protective order. At that point, you can’t unring the bell. Zuffa wants to appear reasonable to the magistrate and indicates that it is willing to continue to work with Bellator to get the documents it needs.
The hearing is March 29th in LA. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
March 1, 2017
Zuffa, LLC and Dana White have filed a Motion to Dismiss Mark Hunt’s lawsuit filed in Nevada.
Brock Lesnar, also a defendant, has yet to respond to Hunt’s lawsuit.
This past January, Hunt filed a lawsuit citing multiple causes of action including federal RICO charges as well as state charges of negligence and fraud.
You may recall that the parties had agreed to allow Zuffa to file a response until February 28th instead of in early February as originally required by law. Thus, it gave Zuffa extra time to file this Motion to Dismiss.
In its Motion to Dismiss, Zuffa claims that Hunt has no standing to prove a RICO claim. It notes that Hunt does not point to specifics which would satisfy the requirements.
It comes out swinging taking issue with the organization of Hunt’s lawsuit:
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 1, 2017
Moreover, Zuffa claims that Hunt’s alleged injuries are subjective. For example, Zuffa claims Hunt’s claims of lost opportunities from losing to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 are speculative. This is against RICO laws per cases cited by Zuffa. Notably, Hunt does not point to a specific title fight, promotional opportunity or marketing opportunity lost which could be linked to his loss to Lesnar.
Zuffa attaches Hunt’s 2016 Promotion Agreement to the motion but it is filed under seal so the public cannot access it.
Interesting enough, Zuffa points out that the Promotional Agreement does not impose a contractual obligation “to provide Hunt with clean opponents.” Zuffa argues that it is impossible for Zuffa to control any fighter from taking banned substances.
Hunt’s claim for personal injuries are barred argues Zuffa due to his express assumption of the risk contained in his fight contract. Essentially, Hunt knew of the risks going into the fight and it absolves Zuffa from liability.
Under a Motion to Dismiss standard (FRCP 12(b)(6)), a plaintiff must allege facts that, if taken as true, demonstrate “a plausible entitlement to relief.”
MMA Payout will have more on this as Hunt’s lawyers will need to respond. From the looks of the lawsuit, Zuffa makes strong arguments as to why the lawsuit should be dismissed. Some interesting things to note. Brock Lesnar has not filed a response as the motion is only for defendants Dana White and Zuffa, LLC. Lesnar needs to respond or Hunt could move for a default. One has to wonder if the parties have carved out some sort of an agreement with respect to Lesnar. Zuffa makes its strongest case with respect to the RICO claims. This might mean that it wants the federal claims kicked so they can move it to state court in Clark County. Finally, with the issue with USADA and the waiver, why hasn’t it been dragged into the lawsuit?
MMA Payout will continue to monitor.
February 27, 2017
Attorneys for Golden Boy Promotions have filed a Notice of Appeal and Representation Statement to appeal the Court Order dismissing its antitrust lawsuit against Al Haymon and his various entities
The deadline to appeal the decision was Monday and they just met it. This could mean that Golden Boy is ready to take it to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or determine whether there is a possible settlement. Based on the opinion, Golden Boy has some hurdles to overcome to persuade an appellate court to find fault in the judicial opinion dismissing the case.
February 23, 2017
On Wednesday, Bellator filed a Motion to Quash a Subpoena served on it by the UFC in its antitrust lawsuit filed in Nevada. MMA Payout has obtained the documents related to the motion to quash.
Bellator is not a party to the lawsuit. There is no date set for the hearing. Since the pleading was filed in California, it’s not known at this point whether Zuffa will make Bellator file in Nevada or make an appearance in California.
The motion essentially is a court order relieving Bellator of its duties under the UFC-issued subpoena.
The requests are outlined by Bellator in its motion. It made attempts to compromise by providing certain information but the UFC would not do it.
The filing includes a Declaration of Scott Coker. In the 8 page Declaration he states that the reasons why Bellator cannot provide the requested information to Zuffa.
Notably, he states that providing athlete contract information, competitors would be able to anticipate Bellator’s recruitment strategies. Also, “[d]isclosure of Bellator’s fighter contracts to the Plaintiffs…and to other MMA athletes would place Bellator at a grave competitive disadvantage in its negotiations with athletes. With comprehensive knowledge of Bellator’s existing deals, price points, negotiating tactics, and business development priorities, athletes and their management would have more leverage to drive their own desired deal terms and precipitate disputes among athletes already under contract.”
This is the general dealing in discovery fights. The subpoena request is broad, the one producing the documents wants to limit, while the requester always wants more information. The Motion to Quash is the relief that Bellator has to avoid the subpoena in order to not be in violation. From Bellator’s perspective, it does not want to release the information as the UFC and other competing organizations can use it in the future. MMA Payout will keep you posted.